A companion blog, The Metacognition Project, has been created to focus specifically on metacognition and related consciousness processes. Newest essay on TMP: Goals and Problems, part two

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I’m Going For A Walk

I am not a multitasker; not good at trimming my toenails while riding a bicycle or having sex while doing back flips on a trampoline.  I find it equally difficult to mix intellectual activities.  And since my attentions are being drawn to spending time on, thinking about and writing about a bit of, more or less, “natural” desert in my vicinity, contributions to this site will drop off precipitously.

I present this formally rather than just not posting new essays so that the 5 (or 25 or 55, it must be some odd multiple of 5 for my sense of order) people who, for whatever reason, regularly visit this site will not think that I have given up on the world or died (ultimately the same thing).

No; I am gone walking.  Last night I rode my motorcycle out to the dry plains and sat (and walked around) through one of the greatest events in the human universe: the setting of the sun.  When I got to my selected place the sun was about 3 palm widths above the low volcanic hills to the west.  There was a mild, but clear urgency, to collect a bit of wood for a fire; for cooking my supper and for heat against the late October cold.

 It was an area that I knew well.  The dry wash where I gathered stones combined with others like it, eventually making a vertical walled canyon a mile to the east and “exploding” out onto an old river channel of the Rio Grande where the river had down-cut making miles of lava cliffs.  The river was now 7 miles to the west, fickle thing that it is, seeking the easiest way off the Colorado Plateau.

As I walked back to the spot where I had settled in for the evening, the sun was just on the horizon.  The return route was determined by the location of the little trees – hardly trees at all to someone with experiences from the mountains or the great forests of the east or coastal west – tall, dense bushes to block the light letting me see when in their long shadows.  I will not even attempt to describe the colors.

I heard some coyotes talking to each other down toward the lava cliffs and wondered if they knew yet that I was there.  Except for the delicious sound of the old BMW engine on the way in I was very quiet.  I also thought a bit about the mountain lion tracks that I had seen in the hills just to the west, tracks coming from these plains; but not too much.

I knew as soon as I built a fire the coyotes would know all they needed to know about me.  Later, after the fire had been going for sometime, the sun had been down for almost an hour, but the last of its light was still in the western sky, there came a howling from south of east, from the area of a little box canyon in one of the many dry washes that trail to the east toward the lava cliffs – about a half mile away.  The yelping, barking and singing quickly proceeded north along a spiraling curve that came closer and closer until a crescendo just to the north and 50 yards away; a space where no light came from the darkness, only the free flowing sound.  The 2 or 3 singers hidden in the darkness went through a rapidly changing display of coyote virtuosity for about a minute and then the night went silent. At least 6 performers had acted in this opera (which was, lest we forget, life and death to the coyotes).  I hesitate to think that it was done for me, but whatever the reason it was wonderful.

So I leave you – for the high desert plains, lava cliffs and river-cut canyons of the Caja del Rio – to play with the coyotes, mountain lions, bears, deer, elk, wild horses, chipmunks and jack rabbits.  Golden eagles nest in the river canyon cliffs and do their plunging mating dances right there in front of God and everybody who happens by.  Ash-throated fly catchers and phoebes somehow make a living on the 10 inches of rain a year, and piñon jays are returning in response to the gradual return of the piñon trees following the great die off several years a go.

I’ve got a lot to do. I leave you with what is intended to be a tantalizing hint of where I’ll be playing.  There are a few places like this left; a land-ocean without trails, all directions possible limited only by the shape of the land, and the capacities and courage of the traveler: a living metaphor for the proper place for the human mind.

I will drop by here periodically when something sticks too persistently in my craw.  And if you drop me an email, I’ll reply eventually; when in an area that gets service.

(Damned application wouldn't put the images in the order of my choice, but that is just the way it is.)
1) The road into the central hills
6) High desert plains: a year without a fall bloom
7) The Rio Grande in its long narrow house
2) The central hills seen from the northern hills
3) Diablo Canyon looking west toward the Rio
4) Coyote track with juniper berries
8) The perpetual optimism of youth
5) Fall bloom: winterfat and chrysothamnus


john said...

Thanks for the pics. I lived out on the land off of highway 14 south of Madrid for 12 years...

and I still often wonder why I ever left.

James Keye said...

John, I have a photo of the La Bajada escarpment taken from top of the hill just south of Madrid -- you most know it well -- considered it for this list. As they say, if I'd known you were coming...

Michael Dawson said...

Happy wanderings!